Love for James Bond is tragic. Sure, his conquests are as numerous as they are fleeting, but consider 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Bond marries Countess Tracy, only to lose her to a bullet meant for him. The man behind the drive-by shooting: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, naturally. The movie ends with Bond cradling the body of his dead bride. They were supposed to have all the time in the world. They got only minutes.
The actor playing that Bond, George Lazenby, played Bond only once. The other five to step into the tuxedo—not counting David Niven’s outing in the non-Eon produced Casino Royale (1967)—did so at least twice, with Roger Moore and Sean Connery both packing Walther PPKs seven times apiece—if you count Connery’s non-Eon produced Never Say Never Again (1983). Our current Bond, Daniel Craig, has been a 00 agent for five installments now going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. That one starred Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, another who also meant more to Bond than the average fling. And one who also met an untimely demise.
Lynd is still on Bond’s mind in No Time to Die, the latest and reportedly final Bond film starring Craig. After a flashback establishing a crucial relationship between two characters, No Time to Die picks up where 2015’s Spectre left off: Bond and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in love and on vacation. Always the good doctor, Swann knows there is no future for her if Bond cannot move on from the past. But the past is also nipping at Swann’s heels, and a successful relationship seems untenable for the two.
Five years later, Commander Bond is retired and living the linen lifestyle in the Caribbean. Not that the world is safe, Bond is just broke from the cost of saving it. It’s up to old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and the CIA’s greenest recruit, Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen), to convince him to get back in the fight. Bond does but as a CIA operative.
That doesn’t sit well with M (Ralph Fiennes) and MI6’s newest 00 agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who wants Bond out of her way. There’s another superweapon out there capable of killing with spectacular efficacy, and both the CIA and MI6 need to stop it.
To say more would give the game away. It would also take as much time to describe what happens in No Time to Die as it does to watch it. The movie runs 163 minutes and is jam-packed with the usual globetrotting adventure and action set pieces. Some, like a shootout in Cuba, are marvels of moving parts with multiple agents on separate sides in play. Others, like a scene in a Norwegian forest, turn Bond into an odd cross between John Rambo and a big game hunter. The movie never drags, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel bloated.
But where No Time to Die succeeds is in the moments of Craig as Bond, a man reckoning with a career of death and destruction. What is all that sound and fury for? To protect the planet from one more bad guy with designs on destroying everything? There were megalomaniacs before James Bond earned his 00 status, and there will be megalomaniacs long after 00 goes six feet under. Who will save the world then? Other people, naturally. So where does all this killing—and there is a lot of killing in No Time to Die—leave Bond? What was Lazenby’s Bond thinking while he cradled a dead Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? What good is killing hundreds if you can’t save one?
Those seem to be the questions director Cary Joji Fukunaga and cinematographer Linus Sandgren captures in Craig’s blazing blue eyes for a large part of No Time to Die. We’ve been here before. So, where do we go from here?
No Time to Die (2021)
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Story by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga
Based on characters created by Ian Flemming
Produced by Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Rated PG-13, Running time 163 minutes, Opens in theaters on Oct. 8, 2021.